Systems Concepts in Action: A Practitioner’s Toolkit
Bob Williams, Richard Hummelbrunner
Stanford University Press 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0804770637
296 pages

Systems Science is raging in attempt to explain and harness systemic phenomena that would work regardless of the system’s nature. This book aims to present a variety of practical, tested, wide-ranging and multidisciplinary methods available to a practitioner who is in need to make sense of and change systems, whether it is a particularly tricky situation, a project, an enterprise, a social network or even an industry.

Nineteen methods are presented in the book, one per chapter, sorted in one of three categories: describing and analysing situations, changing and managing situations, and learning about situations. Each method is given a structured description consisting of a narrative, a case study, reflections on the use with pros and cons, a list of known variations, and references for further reading.

Unfortunately, I found out that chapters lack cohesion. There’s no naturally unfolding narrative thought the chapters, nor do authors offer an overreaching classification scheme. The book is held together only with the help of introductory chapter that tries to present some background and structure for the following text, but the main material mostly lacks references to it. Consequently, the book is perceived as merely a compilation of articles, not as a cohesive whole and the quality of materials chapters varies greatly. It seems that some chapters were written by authors themselves, and others are compiled from the material of others with little adaptation whatsoever.

In summary, the book is a good starting point to get one’s head around the variety of practically working systemic methods, but it’s nowhere near being the meta-framework that helps you finding the best approach for your circumstances, which you normally would expect from a true practitioner’s toolkit.

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